Fourth Sunday of Easter

This week the readings come from Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; and John’s Gospel 10:27-30.

This week we hear about the Good Shepherd it is sort of a continuation of Paul and Jesus “Feed my sheep” from last week although it come from earlier in the Gospel. Sure the metaphor is rough today as not many of us know shepherd but they were rough around the edges and as Pope Francis has said they would smell of their sheep. Being like the Good Shepherd is a goal that we should all be willing to attain. We need to go out into the world and work with others for the betterment of the world. Priests and Bishops need to listen to the words of Pope Francis and take on the character of the people that they serve.

Vatican II: The Decrees

Of the Vatican II documents the decrees are by and large forgotten about behind the Constitutions and Declarations but these Nine Decrees are pretty important. Some actually are pretty interesting as well but others are just dull.

Inter mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communication): This document is on the how the Church should interact with media. It states that the Church should use media to evangelize but the media itself should be moral as this is the only way the people can trust in the radio/tv/newspaper/cinema. Bottom line of this decree it is to help with the advancement of humankind’s being and their religious journey. This document has been criticized for not doing much. John Paul II would eventually set up the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1988, he also in 2005 sort of issued a better document on Communications with The Rapid Development which points out that the Church should be paying “attention to the culture created by communications media” notably the internet. Pope Benedict XVI also touch on this In 2010 when he issued a statement encouraging to all priest to become digital citizens.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite): This one says that the Eastern Catholics should be unique rites and retain their own traditions while remaining in communion with the Holy See.

Unitatis redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism): It calls for the reunion of all Christendom, offering something like what the Eastern Catholics have where the unique rites and traditions of the various rites would continue for the other Eastern and Oriental Churches. Of the Reformation Churches there are some other hurdles that would be faced (doctrinal). However, there is some talk of a first step in ecumenicism as we are all baptized.

Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church): Here the focus is on the Bishops across the world and that they are all brothers and should work together. This is where the National Episcopal Conference became a requirement for all nations, and some regions of the world also established regional conferences of Bishops as well.

Perfectae caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life):  This one looks at religious life. It takes on the life and discipline of those institutes whose members make profession of chastity, poverty and obedience and to provide for their needs in our time. From here came a bunch of adaptations of Religious life, notably the habit being replaced with modern attire. This document is considered controversial as since many religious left religious life and the numbers of vocations hasn’t really recovered.

Optatam totius (Decree on Priestly Training): This one tackles the importance of priestly training and lays down principles which may be strengthened and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. The one like the one on Religious life has been greeted with some controversy as there was a significant drop in priestly vocations in the Western World although some argue this has more to do with secularization, the sexual revolution and backlash against Humanae vitae.

Presbyterorum ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests): This is just like the one on Bishops or Religious which outlines their role in the modern Church. This time around it for priests, “they do not seek to please men but rather must follow Christian doctrine, living a Christian life, always striving for holiness, and voluntary poverty.” Key aspect in priestly life in the celebration of the Eucharist and recitation of the Divine Office. The role of the priest is like the sower in the parable, casting out seed and hoping that some will land in the good soil so that something with grow for the harvest. This one like the one of Religious life and Priestly training is controversial, with a sharp decline in vocations after this decree came out.

Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity): Here the Bishops offered some advice to encourage and guide lay people in their Christian service. It brings the laity and names them as of a the central importance for the Church. Cardinal Arinze summarizes this up nicely in his book The Layperson’s Distinctive Role that “lay people are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations.” I might look deeper into this one at a later time.

Ad gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church): To the Nations we are all sent out to evangelize, just like the apostles. With the Church’s current effort with the New Evangelization, it might be time for us all to look back here as a place to start the efforts.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings have the same feel as last week with the general theme of ministry. We begin with the Prophet Amos, one of the lesser prophets, we pick up right after Amos had just been giving some prophecy importantly that the king Jeroboam would die by the sword and Israel would be exiled. We begin with Amos being rebuked and sent away from Bethel (Northern Israel) for being a prophet by Amaziah who says that he should go to Judah (Southern Israel) and prophesy since that is how he earns his bread. Amos however says that he was a simple shepherd and dresser of sycamores but the Lord came to him and said “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” The Lord calls people from various places in life to service. In the epistle we hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, although the extent of the reading is simple Paul’s welcome and thanksgiving. In this Paul goes into depth about how we are all children of our Father in heaven for in love we are adopted through Jesus. It’s a pretty little picture since he has chose us before the foundation of the world. Turning to the Gospel we hear Mark tell of Jesus sending the twelve out two by two into the world taking nothing but a walking stick and sandals. They were sent out to preach, drive out spirits, and heal the sick. Once again we have a call for mission go out into the world taking nothing with us since the Lord will provide for all that we need. It doesn’t matter where we begin but this message is meant for us as well we should be bringing the Word out into the world and trying to make it a better place for all of our brothers and sisters that we share it with. The Lord doesn’t care what we are Amos was a tree dresser and he became a prophet we are all called at our baptism to be prophet, priest and king but for many of us we forget this over the time since we were baptized.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The St. Joseph Missal indicates that the theme of this week’s readings is the priest’s ministry, while this seems apropos I think the message is meant for all of us as at baptism we are all called to be priest, prophet and king. So it is more about the universal call to ministry. We begin the readings in the book of the prophet Ezekiel and we hear from early on in this book as we hear that as the Lord spoke to Ezekiel the spirit entered into Ezekiel and he hear a call to go minister to the Israelites as they are rebels who have rebelled against the Lord, they are hard of face and an obstinate of heart. This same description can perfectly sum up society today as well. So we are called to go out saying “Thus says the Lord…” so that people know that a prophet has been amongst them.

We look at the second letter from Paul to the Corinthians and we hear a similar problems has been facing those in Corinth. They are dealing with false preachers and Paul sees this as a problem since these false ones are preaching about how their message is from the Lord. However, Paul will tell you that he has problems as well and that through Paul’s flaws we are directed towards Christ. As Paul writes “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” this here is a call to be a suffering servant. For some many of us we see the strengths in ourselves and want to emphasize them but Paul says that we should be emphasizing our weakness as they bring us closer to Christ.

As we turn to the Gospel we have the story of Jesus going to the synagogue at his home and preaching but the crowds are more interested in that fact that it’s Jesus, the “Hey, I know that guy” effect and they don’t listen to what Jesus has to say. Mark notes that Jesus didn’t do many miracles except for a couple because the people of his home town were lacking faith. So to sum it all up we have to be willing to embrace our weaknesses and go out of our communities to preach the good news.